Saturday, May 13, 2006

Links of the Weekend for 5/12-3/06

by Intern Sharkey

Welcome to another edition of the Weekend Links, brought to you by the end of my freshman year of college (it’s been a bit busy, so sorry for the rough-and-ready treatment). To the Linkage!

Three more with The Champs. Enjoy the weekend.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Stadium Game

As the stadium bill is being reworked in a conference committee this weekend, I thought it might be a good idea to cover the long strange path a stadium bill travels. This is from the April issue of GameDay. To see it in it's entirety, just click on it. - TG

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A taste of this weekend's Dugout Splinters in GameDay...

What's Working
The White Sox won last year, plain and simple, because of their pitching. For all the raves about the White Sox offense, it was below average, ranking ninth in the American League. Not anymore. They’re in fourth place in the AL this year, thanks to a gamble they took on a 35-year-old with a bad back by the name of Jim Thome. Fourteen home runs later, we can safely say that was a pretty good gamble.

There is no way to portray the Thome trade as anything less than completely one-sided. The White Sox gave up a very good hitting center fielder in Aaron Rowand, but Rowand was going to start getting expensive. In addition, they received $22 million to help cover Thome’s salary, meaning that Thome is essentially costing the White Sox just $7 million per season over the next three years, which is about the same amount the Twins are paying Shannon Stewart.

White Sox GM Kenny Williams was able to make that kind of deal because he was in the right place at the right time. New Phillies’ GM Pat Gillick was apparently desperate to get out from under Thome’s contract because of the performance of rookie Ryan Howard last year, who can only play first base. Thome’s no-trade clause in his contract gave him the freedom to veto any trade that wasn’t to a competitive team close to his home. The White Sox were the only interested team that matched those criteria. Plus, they happened to have an offensively skilled center fielder, which the Phillies have needed since Lenny Dykstra. Deal done.

What’s worse for Twins fans is the performance of the players that surround Thome in the order, each of whom are hitting about 50 points higher than last year. Tadahito Iguchi bats second and hit .278 last year. He’s hitting .323 so far this year. Paul Konerko, who bats cleanup, is batting .331 versus .283 last year. The next batter, Jermaine Dye, is hitting .309, 36 points higher that in 2005.

Had enough? Sorry, there’s more. Following Dye is AJ Pierzynski who is batting .330. Following him is Joe Crede, whose career batting average is .259. He’s hitting .319 this year. I can’t go on. No player should have that big an effect on his teammates, but if that’s a coincidence, it’s one miserable coincidence for Twins fans.

On the Hill

Monday: Freddy Garcia (5-1, 4.64 ERA)

  • 2005: 14-8, 228 IP, 146 K, 3.87 ERA

  • Garcia was the other White Sox pitcher who has been traded for Randy Johnson. He was the key prospect that Seattle acquired when they traded away Randy Johnson in 1998. They also acquired Carlos Guillen (who we just saw starting at shortstop with the Tigers) and John Halama (who is no longer in the majors).

  • In his last start he struggled early but gave up only one run over eight innings. He also didn’t walk a batter, which has been a problem for him most of the year.

  • Heckling Tip: Time for those Jeff Spicoli impressions. According to the Venezuelan daily newspaper Lider, Garcia tested positive for marijuana during the World Baseball Classic. Aloha, Mr. Hand.

Links of the Day for 5/12/06

by Intern Pseudofool

  • It’s a bit early to start the trade rumor machine going but a few blogs are discussing the possibility of Hunter and/or Stewart going to the Cards here, here, and even here. Though I’m sure some people still aren’t very keen on trading with St. Louis after giving them Tom Brunansky for Tom Herr.

  • King Kyle? I guess we won’t see Liriano this quickly after all.

  • Can we measure defense with as statistical model? The answer is: who knows. But nonetheless ubelmann takes a look at the Twins measurable defense and its absurdity.

  • Don’t forget to examine and analyze the minors on a regular basis! You can do so here and here. Also look for Roger’s updates on (as well as Seth’s own observations) and Dianna’s updates in the minor league forums at DTFC. [editor's note: You can also find Roger's minor league news in GameDay] Don't you want to discuss whether Trevor Plouffe is better than Alexi Casilla? Or how good Doug Deeds and Josh Rabe can be? Matt Moses is hitting .330/.382/.530 with five homers, I know I like that. Batista eat your heart out.

  • Mainstream Power Rankings: has them at 21st, has them at 25th, Foxsports has them at 23rd, and has them also at 23rd, for a grand total of 91st place, which is really bad considering there are only 30 teams.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Links of the Day for 5-10-06

By Intern Jimmy

Under The Microscope: No start in Kyle Lohse's Twins tenure carries as much ramification as today's turn on the mound. Lohse's rollercoaster act has worn razor thin with management and fans. No longer is youthful inexperience an acceptable excuse. Lohse's strong spring seemed to portend the coming of age for the 27-year old. Too bad the magic quickly disappeared as 4 of 6 starts have yielded 6 or more earned runs. Who could ever replace his spot in the rotation…

Help On The Way? The question has been asked ad nauseum since his major league call up- when will the grooming period end for the uber-talented Francisco Liriano? Closer than we all think? The club's kiddie-gloves treatment of Johan Santana reaped obvious benefits, which begs the question- is his second coming ready? With the season spiraling towards the Boundary Waters, the positives far outweigh the negatives of the youngster thrown into the mix. If the coaches feel the need to keep Liriano at a pitch count, so be it. The sooner he begins thinking and throwing like a starter, the better. There's no doubt Liriano is special, as Jim Souhan hyped about a month back. Hell, his 13.24 K/9 leads all American League pitchers. I can’t even fathom the prospect of mercilessly unleashing the dual lefty attack on successive nights. It’d be nice if the Twins realized exactly how good the cards are before folding their hand. If you’re dealt pocket aces, the smart bet is to play them.

Defense To The Rescue: Though it's hardly a surprise when it happens, Torii turned in another sterling Web gem Sunday (below the picture, click the video icon “Torii’s running catch”). Racing to cover more ground than usual, Hunter snared the ball backhanded on the run coming out of nowhere. The defensive play of the day in baseball left the commentators in disbelief and mouths agape everywhere. It’s booster shots like this from their de facto leader that the Twins need to raise the overall confidence and play with a sense of urgency as they climb back to respectability.

Injury Alert: Not that I like to revel in any player getting hurt, but this news prompted a faint smile to escape. With the Twins treading water to stay afloat in the Central, anything resembling a buoy to help earn a win, especially against this particular division rival, is reason enough to grab for it. As the offense stalls as frequently as any stick-shift car I drive, not having to face the league’s ERA leader in the upcoming 4 game tilt is welcome news. What if things snowball for the White Sox without the presence of their most reliable pitcher dating back to last year’s postseason run? What if the injury is worse since Contreras isn’t exactly a spry young man who bounces back from ailments? The potential for something like this to throw the White Sox clubhouse off-kilter and embark on a losing skid has me twirling my imaginary Rollie Fingers mustache.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Links of the Day for 5/9/06

by Intern Thomas

  • In case you haven’t noticed, the left side of the infield has come back to earth in terms of generating offense. Are there other options available? (Yeah, I know, everyone knows the answer to this question). Aaron Gleeman has a look at how the Twins’ hitting prospects are doing down on the Farm. And while Bartlett and Kubel aren’t exactly setting AAA on fire, they’re still doing pretty well, and with Cuddyer handling the bat well, it seems that there are better options than the Dictator Duo. Mike Kramer over at Twins Killings seems to think that the signing of Batista and Castro aren’t the only reasons to be unhappy with Terry Ryan.

  • Of course, it’s a lot harder to find fault with Ryan when it comes to finding stud pitchers. Santana is already past his usual slow start (though he had no chance against the combined powers of DicknBert on Sunday), posting a 2.48 ERA in his last four starts. Of course, if Bert hadn’t said anything about the shutout after Pudge broke up the no hitter, it would have only been 1.86.

  • It seems that Lohse is pitching for his spot in the rotation on Wednesday. Is it wrong to be rooting for another poor start from the Soul Patch Kid? Also, it seems Gardenhire is the reason Liriano is being used in the setup role, rather than starting in AAA. It seems to me that Ryan should take a page out of Billy Beane’s book and stop letting his manager make decisions that the GM should be making.

  • Finally, the Greet Machine remains the place to get all of your stadium bill news. Things are looking good in the Senate after a poll of Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson’s constituency showed that 71% were in favor of the bill. And Governor Pawlenty has decided to sign the bill if it passes the legislature. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the vote, which should be sometime this week.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How Much for the Litte Boy?

by Twins Geek

The following is in this month's issue of GameDay, the independent program sold outside of the Metrodome.

What’s striking is the confidence.

Sure, there’s the patience. And the quick wrists. Everyone talks about the sweet swing, as if most of us could judge such a thing. But we know confidence. You could plunk some tribal pygmy from the Amazon in the front row of the Metrodome and he’d watch one at-bat and tell you that this kid was special compared to the others.

The quiet confidence. Especially in one so young. It lifts us up. At least, until - in typical Minnesotan self-deprecating fashion - we wonder how much longer we’ll get to enjoy it.

Welcome to the modern business of baseball, where players aren’t glossy trading cards – they’re contracts. Where small market teams need to evaluate the long-term future of a player before they’ve really been tested. And where the fairy tale about a kid playing for his hometown team may not end in “happily ever after”.

It seems like we just met Joe Mauer. Nevertheless, due to the economics of the game, the sports market that Mauer and his team share, and one crummy knee injury, an important opportunity has already passed. And Mauer’s economic value to a team that counts its pennies is decreasing fast.


Mauer’s knee injury in 2004 robbed the Twins of more than just his bat in the lineup. It robbed them of one-third of Mauer’s “serf” years. For roughly the first three years of a major league player’s career, their team can pay him whatever they want (above a minimum salary requirement.) If the player doesn’t accept what the team offers, the player has two choices – play for less or don’t play baseball.

This is when a team recoups the investment it makes in its farm system. It’s completely speculative what Mauer might have made if he could have been a free agent just prior to his rookie year, but a multi-year, guaranteed contract that exceeded $5 million is nearly certain. It might have exceeded $10 million. Instead, the Twins paid him $300,000.

Of course, that year Mauer only had 107 at-bats because of one of the worst possible knee injuries. Oh, it wasn’t “worst possible” in terms of severity – Jason Kubel has that award sewn (stitched?) up. It was “worst possible” in that it was difficult to diagnose, and difficult to judge its progress. Perhaps that’s the reason that the Twins didn’t put him on the 60 day disabled list, which would have delayed his service time. Instead, he gained a year toward the three years of service he needs to get to arbitration.


Starting next year, Mauer will be eligible for arbitration for the next three years. This means that the Twins (if they want to retain him) must pay him a salary that is comparable to what a similar major leaguer makes. Finding a “similar major leaguer” can be tricky, but there are a couple of young players whose salaries could provide a baseline.

Victor Martinez, the talented young catcher for the Cleveland Indians, is a very comparable player who already has a contract. Martinez will make $3 million in his fourth year of service time (which like Mauer, would be in 2007), $4.25 million in his fifth year, and $5.7 million in his sixth year. Anything near that would be the best possible scenario for the Twins. Martinez is getting paid quite a bit below the “superstar” strata for the next three years.

Unfortunately for the Twins, Martinez signed that deal over a year ago, and some more recent deals by young studs are making that salary structure obsolete. Mark Texeira, who was drafted just a couple picks behind Mauer, signed a deal with Texas this offseason that pays him $6.4 million this year, his fourth service year. He’ll make $9 million in his fifth year. He’ll make more than that in his sixth year before he starts making really big money as a free agent.

Chairman Mauer looks like he’s in line for nearly a $3-4 million raise next year, and at least a couple million dollars raise per year after that. Pretty soon, he won’t be the bargain upon which a small market team needs to rely. Time to sign him up to a long-term deal, right?

A missed opportunity

Um, maybe, but don’t expect a big bargain, because that opportunity passed, if it was ever there. The last chance for a major league team to get a big markdown is the offseason following the player’s second full year. At that point, the player has toiled for two years in the majors, and will need to play solidly (and stay healthy) for one more year before they get that first million-dollar contract and gain a lifetime of financial security. For the Twins and for Mauer, that was last offseason.

That didn’t happen, though you can be relatively sure that it wasn’t for lack of interest by the Twins. They’ve recently sought and signed similar deals with Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon and Carlos Silva. It’s doubtful they just overlooked inking a similar deal with the face of their franchise for the rest of the decade.

It’s far more likely that there just wasn’t interest on Mauer’s side. After all, as the first overall pick in the draft, he’s not in the same situation as most ballplayers. His signing bonus was $5.15 million, which he secured by leveraging his football scholarship to Florida State. Neither Mauer nor his agent, the renowned Ron Shapiro, has demonstrated a lack of solid negotiating skills. That doesn’t mean a long term deal can’t happen. It just means it won’t be cheap.

It Is What It Is

The good news is that the Twins have a great young player who should only improve. He’s a fantastic bargain for this year, and a pretty solid bargain for next year. They also don’t need to sign a multi-year guaranteed contract. Since Mauer can’t become a free agent until after his sixth season, the Twins essentially have a four-year contract with him that contains an escalating pay scale that they can renew annually.

The bad news is that in 2008, Mauer’s salary is going to affect the level of players with which the Twins can surround him. Two years after that, he can go to the highest bidder, and there isn’t a lot the Twins are going to be able to do about it other than throw a lot of money his way.

The same dichotomy applies to Twins fans. The good news is they get to watch greatness. The bad news is that every step their favorite player takes forward is likely another step towards the door. So, enjoy it while you can. So good. So confident. So young. So rare.

So long?

Links of the Day for 5/8/06

Powered by Intern Sam

  • Johan Santana took a no-hit game into the 7th inning Sunday before allowing a seeing-eye grounder to Ivan Rodriguez, and it was fun to listen to Herb Carneal and John Gordon in the middle innings as they adhered strictly to the old superstition about never mentioning a no-hitter until it’s broken up, and nearly burst from the excitement. At one point, Carneal danced on the edge of cosmic acceptability when he said, “Two baserunners for the Tigers in the game…” [long pause here, even for Herb] “…a walk… and a hit batsman. Santana’s first pitch to Inge in there for a called strike…” Classic stuff, and it got Intern Sam thinking about superstitions, and ballplayers, and well, we’ve all got our favorites, right? (How about the shortstop who was terrified of the letter ‘x’? Or the Twins’ own Gene Mauch, who never washed his underwear after a win?) Here’s a great list of some of the strangest…

  • Some of the best writing and research on the Twins stadium shenanigans at the Capitol is happening on a blog authored by a Minnesota Senate staffer who says that today could be a very important day for the Twins bill.

  • Anyone watching a baseball game on TV over the last couple of years has probably heard some commentator or other griping about the lack of inside pitching in the modern game. Since the guy griping the loudest is usually the unbelievably pompous Joe Morgan, many fans might be tempted to assume that a lack of chin music isn’t an actual problem. After all, there are still plenty of great pitchers around, right? But the fact is, (and Intern Sam shudders to type these words,) Morgan is right, and this weekend, Gordon Wittenmeyer took a stab at explaining why…

  • We’re just going to assume that there isn’t actually a Twins farmhand named Josh Medwell. On the off chance that there actually is, we absolutely, positively, do not want to hear about it.

  • How tough is it to be a Royals fan? So tough that one 34-year-old fan is throwing in the towel in seriously public fashion. Dismayed by years of futile rooting, Chad Carroll started an eBay auction, offering “my loyalty to the Kansas City Royals (jersey included)” to the highest bidder, and promised the winner the privilege of picking another team for Carroll to support. A Yahoo!Sports columnist offered $198.50, and the Northern League’s Kansas City T-Bones took a run at Carroll’s loyalty as well, but in the end, it was a group of Chad’s buddies who pooled their bids to win the auction. Happy ending, right? Wrong. One of the teams under consideration as Chad’s new rooting interest is the Pittsburgh Pirates.